Explore the mysteries of Nevada while you are traveling with your RV and looking for a perfect place to park it and explore the surroundings. Just because we enjoy the perks and luxuries of the modern days, it does not mean that we cannot, if only for a while, escape to the before times. To get that special feeling, pack your bags, load up your campervan, and head out to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park!
The park is actually a historic preserve where the paleontologists discovered the ichthyosaur fossils. Apart from fossils that will take you back to the prehistoric times, you will also be able to explore the ghost town of Berlin, located in Nye County in Nevada. The park spans over 1,100 acres, and may seem intimidating at times, due to the scorching heat of Nevada. Nevertheless, visitors will be able to enjoy all the wonders of nature, while also learning something about the rich history of the area, and maybe even a bit about the overall history of our planet and creatures that used to inhabit it.
Reaching Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park can be a struggle, but with proper planning you can be there in no time. The closest town is Gabbs, 23 miles west of the park. From there, you can take the windy, barren highway to the park. Make sure to come prepared and fill up your tank, because fuel in the area is scarce – there are not a lot of gas stations around. The road itself is very barren which can make driving difficult in the scorching sun, but also at night when your concentration is not at its peak.
When you get off the Nevada State Route, you will take the dirt loop road to the camp’s entrance. Depending on the weather, the road can be rough or rutted, or even muddy if it rains, so pay extra attention when driving here. Since the nearest services are all the way back in Gabbs, be careful to avoid any RV-related issues. Also, the nearest grocery store is in Tonopah, so make sure you come prepared, as you won’t be able to make any purchases here.
The Berlin-Ichthyosaur Campground is a no-frills zone with 14 sites in total. Some of them are large enough for RVs but they do have to be up to 25 feet in length to be able to pull through. Every site has its own picnic table, fire pit, and a grill, so you can make dinner for your family under the stars. You can get the site on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can come anytime, except for the peak summer months. This is because the park is located in the middle of the state, pretty isolated from the civilization, and Nevada can get quite hot and uninhabitable during this time. Of course, water spigots and vault toilets are located closely to the campground, and the RV dump is a little further, close to the park entrance. Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash, and you must bring your own supplies, and water in case that the pumps don’t work.
Make sure you pack your binoculars in your rig because the desert of central Nevada is just teeming with life. As the driest state in the country, it takes a hardy type of animal to live here, meaning you can see unique creatures of all shapes and sizes. You might see some common desert reptiles like the sagebrush lizard or snakes. It's best to stay back from the snakes though, since a few species are venomous. The desert mammals you can spot range in size from the tiny cactus mouse or mountain cottontail to the larger bighorn sheep or bobcats. Many different types of birds flock to the Nevada desert too from the vulture to the bald eagle.
Even though the park is located in the hot state of Nevada, that does not mean that you cannot enjoy a lovely day outside and throw the best picnic party ever! The park has designated picnic areas where you can set up and eat some delicious food, a refreshing drink, and socialize with friends and family. The best part about an alfresco meal in this park is the possibility of meeting other campers who enjoy traveling just as much as you, and who can give you useful RV tips and tricks they follow. You can even find an RV buddy who can become your travel partner and a friend for life! Of course, all in the comfort of the picnic station where you can also found drinking water and restrooms.
Don’t forget to bring your hiking boots in your campervan or trailer! Hiking in the desert and in a green, grassy state park is not the same thing, absolutely not! Campers can take a nature trail that leads from the campground to the Fossil House, but if you are into more serious physical activity, you can take one of the trail maps that lead around the park. Nature Trail is 0.4 miles long, Cemetary Trail will take you on the 0.3 mile walk, and you can also take three loops around the park. Berlin Townsite Loop, Richmond Canyon Loop, and Diana Mine Loop are for more adventurous types, with Richmond being the longest one – two miles. Of course, you can follow the extensive system of signs that will tell you where to go. Be aware that trail conditions can vary according to the weather, so make sure to talk to the ranger before you venture into the great outdoors.
The hyphenated part of the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is dedicated to the unique ichthyosaur fossils that can be found and seen in this area. These fossils belong to the now extinct Shonisaurus popularis, and were initially discovered way back in 1928. Archeologists and paleontologists conducted research and excavations of the area in the 1960s, when they found about 40 ichthyosaurs. To this day, the remains found are some of the largest ichthyosaurs ever found, and you can check out a few specimens that are still in the area. You can find the fossils close to the ghost town of Berlin, and book a tour to learn more about these amazing creatures and findings! You can take a guided Fossil House tour from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which takes about 40 minutes, and is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of our planet and all the whimsical creatures that used to inhabit it.
One of the greatest advantages of the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is the proximity of the iconic ghost town of Berlin, obviously named after the capital of Germany. This now-abandoned town rose from the dirt back in 1896 when people discovered major gold veins nearby and decided to settle there. The Berlin Mine gave out 42,000 troy ounces of gold, which miners removed from the rocks. However, you will learn that the mine was completely unprofitable by 1911, which made the miners move on and abandon the town completely! You can take a guided tour and learn about the history of the town, see the old ore mill, as well as mercury float tables that the miners used. You can even go into some of the buildings such as machine shops, blacksmith shops, regular homes, and stables. Some of them are too dilapidated and can only be observed through the windows, but in any case, you should gain more insight into the lives of these miners when you visit Berlin.
No camping trip is complete without learning more about the amazing flora and fauna that surrounds you while you are exploring a new area. Walking around the hillsides, you’ll be able to see the Big Sagebrush, also known as the Nevada State Flower, an aromatic shrub that usually grows in the desert. Other plants you will see are the Pinyon Pine and Utah Juniper, when you climb to the upper regions of the park. As far as animals go, if you are lucky, you can get a glimpse of mule deer, cottontail rabbits, western fence lizards, pinon jays, black-tailed jackrabbits, whiptail lizards, chuckar partridge, as well as rattlesnakes, and gopher snakes. Make sure to bring a camera to capture these amazing creatures in the wild!